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Comparing Bell’s First 4 Seasons To Those Of Other Great Running Backs

With the July 17 signing deadline looming every so closer for Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell, I thought today might be an appropriate time to look back at the first four regular seasons of his career and see how they cumulatively stack up to other great running backs who have played the game since 1980 during their first four seasons in the NFL.

In compiling this list, I went back as far as 1980 and only included the running backs who had at least 1000 total touches during their first four seasons in the NFL. As you would imagine, this list includes a multitude of great NFL running backs of which 10 are now Hall of Famers.

I purposefully sorted these stats below by average yards from scrimmage per game to show just how impressive Bell has been since entering the league in 2013. Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Bell’s 5.33 average yards per touch so far during his career is sixth-best on this list. Individually, Bell’s averages per carry and per reception are good for 17th overall each on this list.

Now, the big knock on Bell during his first four seasons in the NFL is the fact that he’s missed a total of 17 regular season games due to either injuries, suspensions or being preserved and because of that, he’s played in the least amount of games of any of the running backs listed below.

If you were to extrapolate out all of Bell’s career regular season averages over a maximum of 64 games, his total yards from scrimmage would be 8,226. It’s hard to imagine him hitting that number had he indeed played in the 17 games that he’s missed, but with that said, you must wonder if he would’ve been able to best the 7,921 total yards that LaDainian Tomlinson registered during his first four seasons in the league.

If you do the math, Bell would’ve needed to average a little more than 110 yards per game in the 17 that he missed to have topped Tomlinson’s totals.

In case you’re curious, Tomlinson had 9,753 total yards from scrimmage after his fifth year in the NFL.

Player G Ru Yds Y/A TD Rc Yds Y/R TD Tch YScm Y/T YPG
Le’Veon Bell 47 908 4045 4.45 26 227 2005 8.83 5 1135 6050 5.33 128.72
Edgerrin James 52 1184 4913 4.15 31 210 1727 8.22 10 1394 6640 4.76 127.69
Eric Dickerson* 62 1465 6968 4.76 55 118 874 7.41 2 1583 7842 4.95 126.48
LaDainian Tomlinson* 63 1363 5899 4.33 54 291 2022 6.95 6 1654 7921 4.79 125.73
Terrell Davis* 61 1343 6413 4.78 56 152 1181 7.77 5 1495 7594 5.08 124.49
Marcus Allen* 57 1081 4638 4.29 44 237 2304 9.72 13 1318 6942 5.27 121.79
Billy Sims 52 1001 4419 4.41 37 155 1833 11.83 5 1156 6252 5.41 120.23
Ricky Williams 54 1197 4982 4.16 32 179 1455 8.13 3 1376 6437 4.68 119.20
Arian Foster 51 1010 4521 4.48 44 167 1531 9.17 6 1177 6052 5.14 118.67
Clinton Portis 60 1258 5930 4.71 45 141 1129 8.01 4 1399 7059 5.05 117.65
Adrian Peterson 61 1198 5782 4.83 52 119 1170 9.83 2 1334 6952 5.21 113.97
Jamal Lewis 60 1239 5763 4.65 33 110 1059 9.63 1 1349 6822 5.06 113.70
Barry Sanders* 62 1189 5674 4.77 52 130 1294 9.95 5 1324 6968 5.26 112.39
Chris Johnson 63 1187 5645 4.76 38 194 1426 7.35 4 1382 7071 5.12 112.24
Emmitt Smith* 62 1262 5699 4.52 50 189 1235 6.53 3 1451 6934 4.78 111.84
Thurman Thomas* 62 1064 4829 4.54 26 189 2040 10.79 13 1253 6869 5.48 110.79
Herschel Walker 60 971 4057 4.18 31 229 2480 10.83 7 1213 6537 5.39 108.95
Ray Rice 61 959 4377 4.56 24 250 2235 8.94 5 1216 6612 5.44 108.39
DeMarco Murray 53 934 4526 4.85 28 171 1200 7.02 1 1107 5726 5.17 108.04
Curtis Martin* 60 1327 5086 3.83 40 160 1255 7.84 6 1487 6341 4.26 105.68
Joe Cribbs 54 960 4046 4.21 20 162 1641 10.13 15 1153 5687 4.93 105.31
Matt Forte 60 1014 4233 4.17 21 223 1985 8.9 8 1237 6218 5.03 103.63
Curt Warner 49 955 4064 4.26 34 131 993 7.58 2 1086 5057 4.66 103.20
Steven Jackson 57 971 4249 4.38 30 190 1586 8.35 6 1165 5835 5.01 102.37
Ricky Watters 59 990 4113 4.15 36 202 1884 9.33 9 1192 5997 5.03 101.64
Frank Gore 59 939 4441 4.73 22 172 1425 8.28 4 1111 5866 5.28 99.42
Eddie George 64 1360 5365 3.94 28 114 994 8.72 6 1474 6359 4.31 99.36
Marshall Faulk* 61 1065 4001 3.76 36 211 1896 8.99 5 1276 5897 4.62 96.67
James Wilder 51 758 2878 3.8 24 243 2038 8.39 4 1002 4916 4.91 96.39
LeSean McCoy 58 835 3866 4.63 30 220 1588 7.22 8 1055 5454 5.17 94.03
Roger Craig 64 749 3254 4.34 31 292 2742 9.39 13 1041 5996 5.76 93.69
Corey Dillon 62 1073 4894 4.56 26 104 885 8.51 2 1184 5779 4.88 93.21
Maurice Jones-Drew 63 842 3924 4.66 49 201 1782 8.87 5 1135 5706 5.03 90.57
Deuce McAllister 61 961 4194 4.36 31 165 1262 7.65 4 1175 5456 4.64 89.44
George Rogers 51 995 4267 4.29 23 44 292 6.64 0 1039 4559 4.39 89.39
Gerald Riggs 54 928 3941 4.25 36 115 878 7.63 0 1060 4819 4.55 89.24
Willie Parker 54 945 4198 4.44 19 75 620 8.27 4 1020 4818 4.72 89.22
Warrick Dunn 63 912 3753 4.12 14 191 1817 9.51 6 1123 5570 4.96 88.41
Willis McGahee 61 1162 4572 3.93 31 111 734 6.61 1 1273 5306 4.17 86.98
Travis Henry 54 963 3849 4 27 103 691 6.71 2 1066 4540 4.26 84.07
Shaun Alexander 64 994 4241 4.27 46 150 1139 7.59 6 1144 5380 4.70 84.06
Jerome Bettis* 63 1116 4522 4.05 24 97 765 7.89 1 1213 5287 4.36 83.92
Rodney Hampton 57 914 3732 4.08 31 121 982 8.12 2 1065 4714 4.43 82.70
Joseph Addai 58 861 3525 4.09 34 157 1231 7.84 9 1018 4756 4.67 82.00
Terry Allen 63 979 4104 4.19 33 103 907 8.81 4 1083 5011 4.63 79.54
Alfred Morris 64 1078 4713 4.37 29 47 365 7.77 0 1125 5078 4.51 79.34
Karim Abdul-Jabbar 60 1003 3413 3.4 33 90 586 6.51 2 1093 3999 3.66 66.65

Stats compiled from PFR.

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